Nutrition, Immunity and Viruses
Our immune system our best weapon against covid 19!
Independently of the essential barrier gestures, our immune system (IS) naturally represents our best defense to deal with external attacks, such as pathogens: viruses, bacteria, physical and chemical attacks.
If it is excessively complex, it is nonetheless excessively efficient, provided that it is not weakened and that it is well supported, as we will see here, in a very simplified way.
Our IS is made up of a set of barriers that protect us, such as the skin, the mucous membranes, the mucus, the hydrochloric acid of the stomach, the alveolar barrier of the lungs, the intestinal barrier where 80% of our immune cells reside , our intestinal microbiota which will modulate all the other microbiota (oral, pulmonary, skin, vaginal) and which interacts intimately with our intestinal barrier.
Behind these barriers, the innate and adaptive immune systems also watch over our defenses, with valiant soldiers: white blood cells, granulocytes, T and B lymphocytes, monocytes, macrophages, NK cells – Natural Killer, dendritic cells… These are the interactions of these elements that will regulate the body’s defenses and general immunity.
To boost this set, it is recommended to have a diet that will protect the balance of the intestinal microbiota (eubiosis) through the consumption of foods rich in prebiotics (fibre), with a low glycemic index, the most organic, local and possible with respectful preparations, especially with gentle cooking such as steam.
Fermented and lacto-fermented foods are also interesting for our microbiota. Gluten is an enemy of our membrane – intestinal barrier which promotes its permeability, so avoid it whenever possible.
Industrial and ultra-processed foods with a high glycemic index promote imbalance in the intestinal ecosystem (dysbioe) with activation of glycation and carbonyl stress, mechanisms that slow down our immune defenses and also hyperinsulinemia which contributes to the inflammation and weight gain.
Consume carbohydrates with a low glycemic index and the most complete possible, that is to say the least processed and the least refined.
These industrial and ultra-processed foods are generally too rich in saturated and trans lipids (fatty acids) and sorely lacking in polyunsaturated lipids, essential (we do not synthesize them) to our metabolisms and our cells (especially neuronal), of the Omega 3 type ( EPA and DHA).
On the other hand, we must lower our Omega 6 intake, which has become far too present in our Western diet, in order to rebalance the Omega 3/Omega 6 balance, which contributes to the inflammatory response, by reducing grape seed oils, sunflower, corn, peanuts, too present in industrial foods.
For this, promote the very regular consumption of small fatty fish (sardines, mackerel, anchovies, herring) and organic vegetable oils of rapeseed, camelina, flax. Do not heat these oils and keep them in the fridge. Crushed flax seeds, chia seeds to rehydrate are also rich in omega 3 and nice in your kitchen.
Oilseeds are a good and varied source of fatty acids, minerals, fibers and vitamin E (tocotrienols) which contribute to the appropriate immune response.
Have a daily coverage of vitamin C via fruits such as kiwi, citrus fruits, red fruits, peppers, parsley, Brussels sprouts, etc.
Vitamins E and C are our basic cellular antioxidants. They must be brought in synergy because they recycle each other.
Remember to have other sources of complete protein than red meat (max 400 g per week and of good quality) which is pro-inflammatory in quantity, such as soy, quinoa, legumes associated with cereals…
Have contributions of polyphenols, these molecules that color fruits and vegetables: antioxidants and anti-inflammatories such as green teas including matcha (EGCG), turmeric, cumin, thyme, rosemary, cinnamon, ginger, small berries of colored fruits: blueberries, aronias, blackcurrants, cherries, black grapes, pomegranates, and also cocoa chocolate +70%, prunes, artichokes, spinach, chestnuts, apples, plums, fresh mint, olives… also vegetable contributions rich in sulforaphane (antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, hepatic detoxifier phases 1 and 2) such as cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, radish, arugula, broccoli, also alliums such as garlic, leeks, onions, shallots, chives, basil…
The type of diet to inspire is the Mediterranean diet, which studies show to be the healthiest and most protective. It is very rich in various vegetables and fruits (antioxidants, vitamins, fibres), in fish (omega 3 and proteins), in dairy products from small animals, therefore no cows, in olive oil rich in antioxidants and in the sun for the vitamin D and ….. the siesta!
The Japanese diet of Okinawa, the island of centenarians, is also to be followed: low calorie density, lots of vegetables including sweet potato, tubers, fish, seaweed, soy and tofu, matcha tea (EGCG), low meat consumption and dairy products and … stress management!
This second confinement is an opportunity to spend time in the kitchen to make healthy and tasty dishes.
Also, essential micronutrients to support our IS:
Vitamin D: supplementation is inevitable and ESSENTIAL given that food cannot cover all of our needs and that the sun, its main supplier, has gone on vacation until next spring. + 80% of Belgians in deficiency.
Vitamin D is essential for our immune system: it works like a hormone and will modulate genes of extreme importance for health and longevity.
It is necessary for the differentiation of lymphocytes, the production of antibacterial peptides and anti-inflammatory cytokines.
It reduces the permeability of our intestinal barrier and positively modulates our microbiota. It is powerful anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory.
Vitamin A essential to activate vitamin D (same nuclear receptors) It controls inflammation and intestinal immunity, among others.
Zinc, studies of which show the deficiencies of our populations, particularly among seniors (lack of intake and/or absorption).
Indispensable to the genetic program. In the absence of zinc all cell growth is stopped. The activity of more than 200 enzymes depends on zinc.
Zinc is the co-factor of our first line antioxidant defenses (SOD)
It improves the antiviral response and immunity in patients who had a zinc deficiency. It participates in the inhibition of viral replication and symptoms related to infection (non-bacterial).
It is essential for clonal amplification, for the production of antibodies.
Zinc is found in oysters, calf and pork liver, red meat, wholemeal bread, egg yolk, legumes, fish and shellfish (in descending order). If you don’t have these foods in your diet regularly, consider a dietary supplement.
The iron that must be well balanced, neither too much nor too little.
Magnesium, which participates in particular in all the reactions of energy production (ATPase), in the activation of the IS via the activation of cytokines and T cells.
Selenium co-factor of our second line antioxidant defenses (glutathione) and co-factor of thyroid hormones, like iodine, which support mitochondrial biogenesis, our cellular energy production. Energy remains ‘the sinews of war’, all our metabolisms being energy-intensive!
Selenium is found in abundance in Brazil nuts. Eat three a day.
Vitamin B12 which intervenes at the level of the barriers, the innate, humoral and adaptive cellular response. Beware of vegetarians for whom the intake is compromised!
It is important to note that these essential micronutrients (we do not synthesize them, their contribution is vital) at optimum doses have a positive effect on all of our metabolisms, not only against covid 19. Their presence is essential to prevent many pathologies including chronic diseases.
The recommendations of these micronutrients are to be personalized.
The WHO has finally recognized vitamin D and zinc essential for our immunity in the fight against the corona virus. Many studies have shown severe zinc and vitamin D deficiencies in people sick with the corona virus.
A recent study by the CNRS – University of Paris also highlights that: “an alteration of antioxidant defenses associated with an abnormally high proportion of neutrophils (white blood cells) would explain the progression of the disease towards its most serious forms. »
Stress has a strong impact on the state of our IS, good stress management is essential to protect our IS. There are interesting and simple techniques to apply based on breathing, cardiac coherence, meditation, mindfulness.
Along with these dietary recommendations, it is essential to practice physical activities to support our metabolisms and our IS, according to our possibilities.
This confinement is perhaps an opportunity to try new physical activities?
In any case, try to go out for a walk, run, bike ride, Nordic walk, etc., regularly. Meditation, yoga, pilates will help you feel good during this period of confinement and beyond.
Intermittent fasting is a powerful tool to boost your IS and regulate your weight downwards.
The ends of showers with cold water, that wake up well and quickly or the derivative baths are positive reflexes for your IS.
Remember to put two or three drops of ravintsara, tea tree or eucalyptus essential oils on your mask.
Take care of yourself, invest in yourself, in your health, in your body, it’s the best investment to make, the most profitable and the most sustainable and no one can do it for you!